Supermarket shelves stripped bare as panicked people jostle for the last packet of toilet paper, their trollies laden with excessive amounts of food and supplies. Nearby, a family of four are surviving on a diet of donated or discounted food.
These are two incongruous scenes that unfolded during the pandemic. Inequality in access to food isn’t new, but it has been heightened during COVID-19, according to alumna and Accredited Practising Dietitian Sandra Murray (GradCert ULT 2012).
The lecturer from the University of Tasmania’s School of Health Sciences investigates what it takes to put good food on the table every day.
Myths abound when it comes to food insecurity, which means a person who does not have regular and reliable access to enough safe and healthy food.
There are assumptions that a person’s weight indicates whether they have adequate access to food; a lack of understanding about the number of people struggling to put food on the table and the tendency to blame parents for the situation.
Sandra will unpack these myths in the upcoming alumni webinar series, Explore.
She will also examine the impact of the pandemic on our ability to eat and source food.
“COVID-19 has really highlighted that there are people really struggling,” she said.
“In June my colleagues and I ran a survey with the Tasmania Project to assess people’s access and supply to food during the pandemic and what we found was one in four people are struggling to put food on the table every day because they cannot afford to buy more.
“Previous research has found food insecurity in Tasmania is between 6-10 per cent.”
While the most recent survey involved Tasmanians, Ms Murray said it was likely to be similar in other parts of the world.
Sandra draws on more than 25 years’ experience as a dietitian. Her interest in the profession was piqued during a biology class.
“I was studying deficiency diseases and I wanted to help malnourished children, so I studied dietetics and tried working in developing countries.”
Sandra also spent many years working for large corporations in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, before moving to Tasmania. She is currently completing a PhD exploring food justice in Tasmania.
“Food justice means taking a holistic view of the food system that sees access to healthy food as a human right and addresses structural barriers to that right.
“During the pandemic so many emergency food relief programs have sprung up, which has been extremely important, but it also highlights how vulnerable the food system is.
“We need to stop and think about what our food system should look like and how this may change after the pandemic.”
She believes part of the solution is on giving everyone impacted an equal voice, government and industry working together, and a focus on having short and local supply chains where the food is sourced, processed, and eaten locally.
To learn more about the food landscape now and into the future register for the Explore webinar on Wednesday, 19 August 2020 from 1.00pm – 2.00pm AEST.